Daily Crunch: Before the pandemic, Expensify made remote work cool and profitable

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Welcome to Daily Crunch for May 25, 2021. Whether you are a developer, a startup fanatic or merely someone with wanderlust, we have something for everyone today. Well, except for disappointed investors in Lordstown Motors. They are stuck holding the bag today after the American electric vehicle company announced a pretty awful set of earnings.

But for the rest of us, there’s quite a lot of tech and startup news to enjoy. Let’s get to it! — Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • TechCrunch’s deep dive into Expensify continues: Ahead of its IPO, TechCrunch is digging into Expensify’s growth from startup to unicorn, with our latest entry discussing how the company shed its “Silicon Valley arrogance” to go global.
  • $300M for vertical farming: Startups shaking up the agricultural world is no longer a surprising idea, but the recent Bowery Farms round did make us sit up and take note. The company is now worth $2.3 billion, and its “vertically farmed produce is now available in 850 grocery stores.”
  • Venture capital’s global march continues: New data from Africa indicates that the continent’s historically lagging venture capital results are making up for lost time. Tage Kene-Okafor reports that VC activity in Africa could reach “between $2.25 billion and $2.8 billion” this year. That would be a new record.

Startups and VC

$26M for Airbyte, which is working to better connect data to where it’s needed: Having data is one thing, but startups are starting to get into not only storing data, but also how it gets ingested (Monte Carlo is working on that), and making sure it’s moved to where it’s needed. That’s where Airbyte comes in. And the company’s latest round comes just months after it raised a $5.6 million seed deal.

We asked our own Ron Miller what induced him to cover the round. Here’s what he had to say: “What attracted me to this round was the fact that the founders were using open source to drive the development of a community of users, then worrying about monetization down the road.”

Twilio opens wallet for Hyro: Whenever a company well known for leading a sea change in the tech world cuts a check, we tend to take notice. Recall when Salesforce was hip; its investments made waves. Today, Twilio is the BigCo in question, and Hyro the startup it is backing.

Per our own Jordan Crook, Hyro “calls itself an adaptive communications platform, which essentially means that customers use plug-and-play tools to get information to end users in a conversational way.” Very cool.

$50M for Whatnot, which wants to livestream e-commerce: Look, if you are not into buying things, Whatnot is not going to be your jam. But if you are, it has a neat take on e-commerce that is popular around the world, but has yet to take off in North America. Notably this round comes mere months after Whatnot raised $20 million.

Something something real-life NFTs?: What happens when you cross a startup that wants to bring blockchain to the real estate market and NFTs? You get this: Propy. The startup in question, is “auctioning a real apartment as an NFT.” I don’t get it! But maybe that’s the point.

$65M for social engineering-fighting Tessian: U.K.-based Tessian is a cybersecurity company, which means that of course it raised a huge new round. The cybersecurity market is hotter than all heck given waves arms around at all the breaches lately. But what makes Tessian neat is that it is taking on the human side of things by “flagging problematic [usage] patterns [that] could signify risky stuff is happening.”

Brian Chesky describes a faster, nimbler post-pandemic Airbnb

Managing Editor Jordan Crook interviewed Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky to discuss the future of travel and what it was like leading the world’s biggest hospitality startup during a global pandemic.

“Our business initially dropped 80% in eight weeks. I say it’s like driving a car. You can’t go 80 miles an hour, slam on the brakes and expect nothing really bad to happen.

“Now imagine you’re going 80 miles an hour, slam on the brakes, then rebuild the car kind of while still moving and then try to accelerate into an IPO, all on Zoom.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

Today was Microsoft’s Build conference, the second time that the annual Redmond developer confab took place virtually. But before we get into that, a short note on autonomous deliveries.

Getting stuff brought to your house without human power is a long-running technology dream. Remember those Amazon drones that everyone got super stoked about and then we never heard from again (not once, but twice)? Or the cute Postmates robot? Well, there’s another set of players in the space, namely JD.com and Meituan. TechCrunch has the latest on their self-driving delivery efforts.

Back to Build — oh boy was there a lot of news. From top to bottom, Microsoft is bringing more Azure services to Kubernetes, new tools for developers building on top of Teams, updates to its Edge browser as Internet Explorer shuffles off this mortal coil, enterprise Azure support for PyTorch, and, my personal favorite, the company is leveraging GPT-3 (which I think is super cool) to help people code in natural language.

I used to be a Microsoft beat reporter. I kinda miss those days. It’s a huge company with a finger in nearly every pie, which makes covering it surprisingly horizontal. Regardless, enjoy Frederic’s coverage!



Some of us have started traveling again … revenge travel, if you will. Our own Jordan Crook chatted with Airbnb’s CEO and we asked him if he thinks “the trends we’re seeing in travel right now, like more rural destinations and decreased business travel, are here to stay?” See what he had to say here and tell us what you think here.

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